No other topic can raise as much controversy among cruise passengers as tipping. Many people see it as a way that cruise lines nickel and dime guests. It’s not unusual for automatic gratuities to add up to $13-15 per person, per day. A couple taking a cruise for a week can expect another $200 added to their bill for gratuities alone.
Still, according to our recent survey, more than 80% of those surveyed said they leave additional gratuities (in addition to those automatically charged) at least sometimes.
A common reason for being so generous with tips? Not only does the staff work extremely hard to keep passengers happy, but the general consensus is that people working on a cruise ship are paid relatively little while working long hours.
But we wanted to get the real scoop on what a cruise line pays its employees. For that, we turned to some recent financial statements from Carnival Corporation.
Carnival is the world’s biggest cruise line. Across 10 brands (including AIDA, Holland America, and Costa), it has more than 100 ships sailing around the world. In total, the cruise line carried more than 11.5 million passengers on its ships last year.
As a public company, Carnival is required to release periodic reports on its financial performance. This gives us a glimpse into everything from the value of its ships to exactly how much it pays its crew.
What the latest financial report reveals about worker pay may surprise you…
Uncovering Average Salaries on a Carnival Ship
For our analysis, we looked through Carnival Corporation’s latest 10-K. This is an annual report that covers all 2016. Within this report are facts and figures about every aspect of the cruise line’s business… including what it pays employees.
Digging through the report, we found the following passage regarding the cruise line’s employees:
“Our shipboard and shoreside employees are sourced from over 100 countries. We employ an average of 84,600 crew members, including officers, onboard the 102 ships we currently operate, which excludes employees who are on leave.”
You read that right — across more than 100 ships the cruise line has nearly 85,000 crew members, coming from over 100 countries! These workers range all the way from engineers that keep the ship running to the captain to the waitstaff in the dining rooms.
So how much do these employees make?
In another section of the report, we see exactly how much Carnival spent to pay these employees for all of 2016:
This number is in millions, so the company spent $1,993,000,000 (nearly $2 billion) to pay its employees in last year.
Meanwhile, the annual report also says exactly who is included in this payroll figure:
“Payroll and related costs, which represent all costs related to our shipboard personnel, including deck and engine officers and crew and hotel and administrative employees, while costs associated with our shoreside personnel are included in selling and administrative expenses”
In other words, this is the payroll for all those crew members working on the ship. People that work in Carnival’s offices, such as executive, marketing, and more, aren’t figured into the payroll figure shown above.
Determining an Average of About $24,000 Per Person
Now that we know the total payroll amount for all the ship employees and the number of employees, it’s simple division to see that the average Carnival employee working on a ship earns $23,558.
What we don’t know is exactly how much each different employee makes. The average salary listed here includes everyone from the captain of the ship to the steward cleaning the room.
According to an article on CruiseCritic, salaries can range wildly, with the captain bringing in six-figures, with a cabin steward earning between “$650 and $1,150 per month.”
All in all, however, with an average salary of under $24,000, it’s clear that most cruise lines employees aren’t getting rich by American standards. So be sure to tip generously for the staff and crew that make your trip so enjoyable.